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From: bghauk@berlin.infomatch.com (Brian Hauk)
Subject: Australian Hands Off PNG!
Date: 3 Apr 1997 23:03:50 GMT

Australian Hands Off PNG!

Editorial from the Militant
Vol. 61, no. 14 (7 April 1997)

"Send Aussie Troops Now!" was the blaring headline on one Sydney tabloid March 23, beating the war drums for intervention in Papua New Guinea in response to a reported request by PNG prime minister Julius Chan for Australian action to prop up his increasingly isolated government.

The Chan regime's crisis - the sharpest since Papua New Guinea won independence in 1975 - is the cumulative result of the failure of the nine-year war against the people of Bougainville, and the growing social catastrophe at home, fueled by world capitalism's depression conditions. Not only did PNG lose 40 percent of its annual export earnings with the closure of the Panguna mine in Bougainville, but growing numbers of body bags began coming back from the war. This developed alongside swelling numbers of unemployed, rampant government corruption, and austerity demands imposed by Canberra and the imperialist banks. Those protesting Chan's mercenaries sensed that their success on Bougainville would lead to the hired thugs staying on to use those methods to rub out opposition at home in PNG.

This emergency has Canberra deeply alarmed - not about "democracy," but about stability for its exploitation of PNG's patrimony. With characteristic imperial arrogance, Australia's prime minister John Howard and opposition Labour Party head Kim Beazley, whose party formulated the response to the Bougainville independence fight from the start, expect their warnings, threats, and orders to PNG, a sovereign nation, to be heeded. Canberra supplies over $A320 million (US$250 million) in annual "aid" and the New Zealand government some $NZ5.9 million (US$4.1 million), which the imperialists think also entitles them to interfere in PNG affairs.

Howard proclaimed Chan's mercenaries "sordid," hoping to divert attention from two facts: that Canberra sent helicopters to Bougainville, which were converted into gunships and piloted by Australian and New Zealand "civilian" pilots throughout the war, and that mustering Australian troops to intervene in PNG's affairs today is itself a mercenary act on behalf of Australian big business.

From the turn of the century Australian colonialism grew rich from trade in cash crops grown with superexploited Papuan and New Guinean labor. After the conflict with rival Japanese imperialism over PNG in World War II was settled, Australian imperialism also began plundering the minerals and oil that are the patrimony of the Papua New Guinean people.

Bourgeois commentators argue that the current crisis shows that the people of PNG are not capable of governing themselves. But the exploited producers have never had that opportunity - until now. Instead, the newly emerging capitalist class has dominated post-independence political life. Above all, the events since March 17 demonstrate that fellow producers are now engaging in politics in the only meaningful sense: in massive numbers in the streets.

Workers and farmers, especially in Australia and New Zealand, who themselves are coming into increasing conflict with the same bosses that exploit PNG, have every reason to oppose any and all forms of intervention into the affairs of PNG and Bougainville.

The international labor movement should demand: Australia, New Zealand hands off PNG and Bougainville! No aid to the PNG government! Cancel PNG's foreign debt! Independence for Bougainville! No imperialist "peacekeepers!"

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